Bias 22: Simultaneous vs. Sequential Choice

Let’s go for a run! We want some music on our cell-phone.

Scenario 1: We have an old cell-phone. We have to download, let’s say 20 songs we want to listen to during our run. Most of the time, we choose different artists and genres of music so we don’t get bored.

Scenario 2: We have a brand new cell-phone with an app asking after each song, taken directly from YouTube, if we want to listen to the same kind of music or not.

Is our choice different in scenario 1 and 2?

Some experiments have been conducted by Read and Loewenstein with a very similar paradigm. They have shown that participants seek more diversity in cases of simultaneous choice rather than in cases of sequential choices. This effect, first observed by Simonson in marketing, is called naive diversification bias.

In the experiment, participants of Group 1 had to choose two songs among 12 simultaneously while Group 2 participants had to listen to the first song before choosing the second. Here are the results:

simultaneous vs. sequential


Marketing: Itamar Simonson chose in 1989 consumer variety seeking in case of simultaneous choice of snacks, but not in case of sequential choice.Itamar Simonson (1989),
“Choice Based on Reasons: The Case of Attraction and Compromise Effects,” Journal of Consumer Research, 16 (September), 158-174.

Portfolio building ; Massimo Garbuio Adelaide, Wilcox King,Dan Lovallo,2007.

Music choices: Diversification Bias: Explaining the Discrepancy in Variety Seeking Between Combined and Separated Choices,1995, Read and Loewenstein